Ping Pong Summer (Blu-ray Review)

Ping Pong SummerComing of age comedies are something I can find myself being a sucker for if they can get the right in or hook for me.  As I grow older, it becomes more of a challenge to understand today’s youth because I’m not one of them and I don’t know what’s hip with the kids.  I must say last year had a fantastic run of these movies with ones like to The Way Way Back, The Spectacular Now, Kings Of Summer and The To List to name a few.  Ping Pong Summer is a much much much more independent film than any of those films, but still nonetheless takes their lead.  It’s summer in the 1980s, and in a little lake town its time for some ping pong, love and learning experiences.

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Rad Miracle (Ugh, that name) is sort of a loner 13 year old who is into playing some ping pong and listening to hip hop on his boom box.  For the summer of 1985 his parents take him and his sister to Ocean City and rent a house.  Once there, he quickly makes a friend who show’s him the Fun Hub, the cool hangout place with lots of arcade machines, pinball machines…and yeah…a ping pong table.  At Fun Hub, he falls for local floozy Stacy Summers and butts heads with local hot shot and ping pong champion Lyle Ace.  It’s gonna be a long and memorable summer in Ocean City.

There are so many things that Ping Pong Summer set out for and had incredibly good intentions, but the film ends up being quite the snoozer.  It doesn’t just want to take place in 1985, but it wants to look like a lost film from 1985.  The opening credits, aesthetic and editing choices all try and imitate a film from that period.  It looks like it was shot on film, but it looks more like an independent film like The Foot Fist Way than it does a comedy from 1985.  If anything this looks more like a super low budget production from then like Disconnected or The Video Dead.

It’s cool that the film takes place in 1985 and they have the styles, the electronics and gadgets from the time. But you need to have your movie focus on it and its characters, leaving that stuff to just appear naturally and background.  This film makes a conscious decision to point out everything and say “HEY LOOK! Remember?” which distracts and makes me feel like they’re more interested in that than the movie at hand.  I dig the nostalgia trip too, but I’d also like a stronger movie base it in.  If anything, they should have just made their movie and not worried about the aesthetic.

Speaking of those characters, this movie is pretty poorly acted too.  Its chock full of young first time actors and it really plagues the film as most of them can’t pull it off.  Yes, the movie boasts Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris, John Hannah and Judah Friedlander who are all fine, but they are relegated to glorified cameos.  And yeah, Susan Sarandon is in this in a key role, but I felt bad for her being in this.  She also doesn’t seem to buy into the film and appears to be “going through the motions”, but even her doing that, she runs circles around everyone else in the film.  That’s how good she is.  You can also tell they only had her for a couple days to shoot.

Ping Pong Summer is a nice try, but ultimately falls flat.  Its too focused on its 80s nostalgia trip and isn’t led by experienced enough talent to keep this thing solid.  I must give them props for using “Friends” from Miami Connection, as I got a kick out that…HOWEVER, that song came out 2 years after this movie takes place so this film is even not coming through in its 1980s research and accuracy for the movie.  I can see some liking this more than me, but after the first few minutes of 80s nostalgia and intrigue with the aesthetic wore off I found myself watching a pretty poor production with some nice moments and checking my watch.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: I don’t know how to properly judge this one as most of its defects are by design.  Its a soft image that features plenty of grain.  Detail is rather average.  The animated opening credits sequence is definitely the cleanest and clearest the film gets.

Depth: Average, although there’s some good stuff in the final ping pong match thanks to some groovy camera angles.

Black Levels:  A bit on the lighter side.  Some crushing evident in some really dark sequences.

Color Reproduction: Colors pop, but the palette on display could have been outstanding.  Instead they are nice and above average.  The Fun Hub being the highlight of it all.

Flesh Tones: Solid and consistent.  On the warm side of things.

Noise/Artifacts:  Intentional grain and specs/dirt throughout.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 2.0 Stereo

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  This is a rather lack luster track featuring lots of ADR and plenty of foley sounds.  The volume seems to be set a lot lower and the sound is sort of muffling, but clear.  There’s nothing really dynamic about this track.  It should have been a lossless 2.0 track and that may have been more impressive.

Low Frequency Extension: Some very very light usage on the songs and score of the film.

Surround Sound Presentation: Nothing really of note, its a front loaded track.  There is some arcade sounds and ping ponging in the rear speakers, but not much.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Slightly muffled sounding, which may be intentional.  There is also a lot of ADR that is slightly out of sync at times and noticeable.

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Audio Commentary – Featuring Director Mike Tully and Producer George Rush.

Lazer Beach: The Making Of Ping Pong Summer (HD, 14:02) – Cast and crew (mostly crew) interviews about working the production.  Lots of sarcastic smart alec answers from the crew.  Its good to know this movie had a great set, everyone had a good time and was fun to make, because it sure wasn’t that fun to watch.

Previews – Ping Pong Summer, Rob The Mob, Stuck In Love, Parts Per Billion, Charlie Countryman

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Ping Pong Summer had some things in play that seemed like it would have me loving it or have me excusing its shortcomings.  However, it was easy to see right through them.  Once you’re about 10-15 minutes in, the fun factor, nostalgia and realization of what the filmmakers are trying to do wears off and you are stuck with an unfunny, uninteresting, poorly acted and predictable story that has you bored waiting for the credits to roll on up.  The extras provided aren’t of much use and the presentation on the Blu-ray is middling.  And I feel bad for Susan Sarandon because you can just tell she didn’t enjoy being a part of this.  I’m sure this movie will find itself a cult fanbase, but I’d be quick to recommend them some much much better movies that accomplishes what this film wishes it could do.



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